The idea of stripping cloth diapers, for some reason, makes people nervous. It shouldn’t, as all cloth diapers need to be stripped at some point. Stripping means treating diapers in a way that removes or “strips” the diaper of any residue that has built up. Brand new diapers need to be stripped of the natural oils to ensure they absorb correctly. It is also a good idea to strip used diapers after you get them, to make sure they are free of yeast and build up from detergents.
There are many other reasons cloth diapers need to be stripped. For instance, using the wrong kind of laundry detergent or diaper cream can cause residue to build up and make diapers leak. If your child’s sensitive skin reacts to your laundry detergent, or they get a yeast infection, cloth diapers need to be stripped to remove all traces of the irritant so that the reaction doesn’t recur. If you suddenly have a problem with your diapers smelling, even after they are washed, or right after your child pees they smell like a hamster cage, you have ammonia build up. Stripping your diapers will eliminate the smell.
There are lots of ways to strip diapers. Depending on what kind of diapers you have and what brand they are, some types of stripping are not recommended. Check with your diaper manufacturer to see how they recommend stripping so you don’t void your warranty on your diapers.
Step 1: Boil or Soak Diapers
- Boiling: Warning: This is only used on prefolds and inserts WITHOUT plastic snaps. DON’T boil covers, anything with PUL or plastic parts as they will melt and your diapers will be destroyed. Boiling is easy. Bring a large stockpot of water to a boil. Add a few prefolds or inserts at time to the boiling water. Stir them to make sure they don’t stick to the bottom and burn. After 3-10 minutes remove diapers carefully from boiling water. Then wash them in your machine following normal washing instructions. This is the best way to prep brand new prefolds. Trust me, it saves tons of time and isn’t nearly as scary as it seems
- Soaking: If you have a top loader with a soak function its good to run a soak load before every normal load as part of your normal washing process. Running one soak 2-4 times a month with one of the additives can help prevent the need to do a full stripping often. If you have a front loader that does not have soak load function place diapers in the bathtub to soak overnight. Make sure bathroom door is securely shut, as it does pose possible drowning risk if left unattended.
- White Vinegar – Use 1/2 cup of vinegar to a full load. It is best to avoid using vinegar if you have hard water, as it can react to minerals in the water and cause problems with your diapers.
- Bacout – This helps kill bacteria. Use about 1 teaspoon in a full load. Some children with sensitive skin react badly to Bacout. Make sure to do a full extra rinse after using on your diapers and discontinue use if your child has a reaction.
- Oxyclean – Use 1 scoop added to a full load.
To do a full stripping process add one or both of the following to your soak load:
- Original Blue Dawn– The only dish soap that works is the Original Blue Dawn, other colors or formulas do not work. Dish soap strips the buildup of oils on the diapers. Many cloth users swear by this method. Use one teaspoon of for high efficiency machines or one tablespoon for regular washing machines.A word of caution putting dishwashing soap in your machine may void the warranty, check with the manufacturers of your washing machine before adding dawn.
- Bleach– Let the drum fill half with water before adding 1/2 cup of bleach in the wash cycle. Then add diapers and let load continue to run. Do not pour bleach directly onto diapers. Bleach sometimes gets a bad reputation. While the daily use of bleach may be harmful to your diapers, occasional use is not. Using bleach insures that you are killing anything growing in your diapers. A lot of diaper manufacturers actually suggest using bleach to strip diapers.
STEP 2: Wash Run a full hot wash load a minimum of two times. If there are still bubbles in the rinse water when it finished, keep running the load until there are no more bubbles.
STEP 3: Dry Either line dry to sun your diapers or run them in a normal dryer cycle.
That’s it! You’re done! Your diapers should be stripped and odor free! Depending on what kind of washing machine you have, you might have to strip diapers more often. Microfiber, all in ones, and pockets tend to need stripping more often. Natural fibers and prefolds tend to need stripping less. No matter what sort of diapers you have, stripping them occasionally keeps them working at maximum absorbency and smelling fresh. If you find that you need to strip diapers more often than every 6 months or so you may consider changing detergents. Depending on type of water, machine, and your wash routine, some detergents work better than others. It doesn’t take that much extra time or effort to do, and having a happy baby with no leaks, smells or recurring yeast infections is totally worth it.